Life After Fire

She eyes me as I take another bite of pastry.

“All the women on her dad’s side of the family have big hips,” she says with a conspiratorial nod to our guests, who smile politely, though somewhat uncomfortably.

“That’s a true story,” I say, laughing it off a bit.

She pats her thighs. “But she gets the big thighs from me.” She laughs. Our guests smile nervously, flitting glances over at me, trying to gauge how I react.

“I guess I’m screwed on both sides,” I laugh. And the guests relax, relieved by the easy banter. Meanwhile, I think, Thanks Mom.

In less than a minute we have slipped into our old routine of half-joke/half-warning and feigned nonchalance. It fits like a favorite old pair of slippers. I know why she does it. She watches my weight like an eagle-hawk ready to shred any excess pound because she worries about my health. She has diabetes and doesn’t want me to go the way of needles and insulin like she has. And I appreciate that about her, even if I don’t appreciate the verbal harping.

But 20 pounds lighter and in a healthy weight I haven’t seen since high school, I am still the fat girl. Still the one who must watch her poundage and battle the bulge. While I was losing the weight, part of me was looking to prove to her I could. Nearly a year since I lost the weight, part of me still hopes to prove to her I did, and could keep it off. And yet, no matter how skinny I get or for how long, I will always be the one who has big hips and big thighs and have to weigh each bite she eats.

And in less than a minute, I am struck by how, after everything happens and the dust settles, old patterns rise again like they’ve never left. After trauma, after marriage, after weight-loss, after fire, the life before returns and things are as they always have been. Some things in life will never change, no matter what you try to prove.

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